Health Benefits of Corn

It's got all the perks of whole grains and more.

Corn, which is a member of the whole grain family, can be very good for you. As a whole grain, corn helps lower the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The insoluble fiber in corn aids in digestion and helps maintain body weight.

Corn is naturally gluten-free, making it a good alternative to wheat for those who avoid gluten. Read on to learn about corn's benefits, nutrition, risks, and how to incorporate it into your diet. 

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Aids in Digestion

Corn gives you a good dose of insoluble fiber. Your body does not break down the insoluble fiber in the cell walls of plants. As a result, insoluble fiber increases stool bulk, helping push waste through your system.

Consuming dietary fiber may aid weight loss. Corn's fiber content helps support healthy body weight by boosting the feeling of post-meal fullness.

Lowers Risk of Disease

As a whole grain, corn is in a health-protective food category. Research has found that consuming whole grains helps lower the risk of heart disease, colorectal cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

Whole-grain corn sources include:

  • Tortillas made with whole-grain corn or whole cornmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Whole cornmeal
  • Whole grits
  • Whole kernels (e.g., fresh, frozen, or canned)

Still, portion size matters. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) advises that adults aged 19–59 eat between three to five ounces of whole grains daily, based on the number of calories consumed daily. The DGA recommends that adults aged 60 and older eat three to 4.5 ounces daily. Choose portions that align with your body's needs and activity level.

Three cups of popcorn, one small piece of cornbread, and one six-inch corn tortilla each provide one ounce of grains.

Provides Protective Antioxidants

Lutein and zeaxanthin—corn's main pigments, or carotenoids—are antioxidants that help protect your eyes. Research has found that those carotenoids may reduce the risk of eye problems.

Some evidence suggests that colorful corn, such as blue corn, has powerful antioxidants. Purple corn has traces of quercetin, an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation. Quercetin might protect against memory-related illnesses like Alzheimer's disease, too.

Research has found that quercetin helps induce apoptosis. Apoptosis is how the body kills cells that don't work correctly, which prevents damaged cells from becoming cancer.

Nutrition of Corn

One medium ear of sweet yellow corn contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 87.7
  • Fat: 1.4g
  • Sodium: 15.3mg
  • Carbohydrates: 19.1g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Added sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 3.3g

Corn contains a variety of vitamins and minerals that are helpful for many body processes and functioning. For example, yellow and sweet corn can be good sources of pro-vitamin A, which your body can convert into vitamin A.

Vitamin A is essential to the body for a few reasons, such as:

  • Helping form mucus membranes, healthy teeth, and skeletal and soft tissue
  • Promoting good eyesight
  • Supporting the immune system

Corn is a good source of potassium, which supports healthy blood pressure, heart function, and muscle contractions.

Risks of Corn

Although very rare, some people may have an allergy to raw or cooked corn. A corn allergy may be hard to diagnose and treat since many foods have corn starch. Consult an allergist if you develop symptoms like swelling or hive after eating corn or foods with corn.

Is Corn Genetically Modified?

Over 90% of corn in the United States is genetically modified. The vast majority of corn grown in the United States is for animal feed and other food and industrial products. You can avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by looking for "USDA Certified Organic" on the label if you buy bagged frozen corn.

A small ear of corn is low in fat (about one gram) and sugar (about five grams). Still, consume high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or corn oil in moderation. Research has found that HFCS may increase body fat, especially belly fat, and triglycerides.

Corn oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids, essential for overall health and cell function. Too many omega-6 fatty acids may harm heart and blood vessel cells.

Tips for Consuming Corn

There are several ways to make corn part of your diet in a meal, snack, or even dessert.

Fresh Corn

To grill fresh corn on the cob, follow these steps:

  1. Pull down, but do not remove, the outer husks. Then, pull off the silk.
  2. Fold the husks back into place and soak the corn in a tub of cold, salted water.
  3. Remove, then shake off the excess water. Grill for 15–20 minutes, turning about every five minutes.
  4. Drizzle with dairy-free pesto or seasoned tahini.

Frozen Corn

You can use frozen organic corn in many ways if you do not have fresh corn on hand. For example, you can thaw frozen corn in the fridge. 

Try adding frozen corn to foods like:

  • Salads
  • Salsa
  • Soups
  • Stir-fries
  • Veggie chili

You could toss thawed frozen corn with avocado oil, sea salt, and chipotle seasoning, then oven-roast it.

Snacks and Dessert

Remember that popcorn counts, too. Buy organic kernels and pop them yourself on the stovetop in avocado oil. Serve your popcorn savory with black pepper, turmeric, and sea salt. You can try sweet, drizzled with melted dark chocolate and cinnamon.

Surprisingly, corn can be good if you include it in sweet treats like:

  • Ice cream
  • Pudding made with coconut milk
  • Sweet corn cakes

A Quick Review

Corn, a whole grain and naturally gluten-free, may offer many health benefits. Corn contains several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help protect against diseases and aid digestion.

You may benefit from adding other fresh or frozen corn to your diet. Keep in mind that there are corn byproducts to avoid or consume in moderation, like HFCS. 

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23 Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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